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Creating a better future in the face of a changing climate

What I learned at the 2016 Fuller Science for Nature Symposium

WWF Panda Ambassador Jason Blackburn attended the 2016 Fuller Science for Nature Symposium at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC, on Nov. 15. Every year WWF brings together a diverse array of experts to discuss a given conservation topic. This year’s symposium, 2° LATER Resilience in a Changing World, focused on using resilience to rethink conservation and sustainability in the age of climate change.

The word of the day was resilience—the capacity to recover quickly in the face of adversity. Climate change and global warming are among the most significant challenges that will affect both people and wildlife in the coming decades. It’s now essential that we prepare for, adapt to, and transform with these changes. By improving our ability to sense emerging risk, we are better able to respond to disruption. By learning and transforming, we are able to build capacity to regenerate.

Climate, energy, food security, demography, finance, trade, politics, and poverty—they’re all connected, and each may affect the others. In order to reduce the impacts of climate change on these interconnected systems, we need to find ways to enhance resilience. There are many ways that you and I can learn how to adapt. Here are a few examples:

Creating Pop-up Habitats

In California’s Central Valley, farmers have been working with conservationists to create pop-up habitats for migrating birds. By flooding their agricultural fields during the short migration season, farmers are creating habitat along migration corridors where the birds can rest and eat during their journey.

Using Data Wisely

We are collecting lots of data, but it is how you use that data that matters. We need to learn what information is the most vital to our future. As author Stewart Brand notes, “The fast-moving trends get most of the attention. The slow-moving trends have most of the power.” We need to know which trends to pay attention to so that we can react appropriately and be proactive when possible.

Build Community Trusts

When the seaweed farmers of Zanzibar were faced with warming waters affecting the types of seaweed that they could grow, they came together to form cultivation clusters, a cooperative arrangement, in which they work together to use areas where the water is cooler to grow higher value seaweeds. By working together they also learned that processing the seaweed into a powder increased their income.

Adapting Management

Another approach to dealing with disruptions caused by environmental changes is to make adjustments based on observed conditions. If fish reproduction is being affected by warmer water temperatures, then you may want to adjust the level of fishing until conditions improve. By monitoring conditions over time, you can observe changes, and adapt to them.

Developing New Ideas

We need to tap into a diverse set of values and goals to come up with new ideas and methods to adapt to a changing climate. All voices should be heard so we create a future in which all groups can thrive.

Learn more about WWF’s work on climate change.